Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"The Court Martial of Hiller C. Ranton"

"The Court Martial of Hiller C. Ranton"

Testimony of the Naval Court of Inquiry regarding the sinking of Captain Ranton's ship, the "Banal."


Court Record 1. On the morning of 21 August Cpt. Ranton ordered his ship to steer a course through uncharted waters of what is now known as Shallow Bay.  The result of this order lead the ship to hit a coral reef, tearing a hole in the Banal's hull.  Immediate flooding occurred and the ship sank to its deck.  There was no loss of life.  The HMS Dragon was dispatched to rescue survivors after receiving an S.O.S. from the Banal.  The Dragon arrived at the following scene as described by its officer of the deck, Lt. Commander Gestalt:

"The whole scene was chaos.  Naval personnel gazing this way and that, some shouting orders, but most in a mad rush to collect floating objects as fast as they could.  I distinctly recall Captain Ranton amid this turmoil trying to organize the mess.  He floundered from one group to the next whereat he read from one of the two texts he held separately in each hand.  Upon noting the arrival of Dragon he swam to us and we hauled him aboard.  Then began the retrieval of the Banal's crew."

In further testimony Lt. Commander Gestalt notes Captain Ranton's demeanor:

"It was one of haggardness brought upon by drink, I'd say.  His eyes were focused away from me as I sought to get him out of his wet clothes.  He fiercely gripped two books which he intended not to be parted from, but with some gentle persuasion I claimed these, plus a third from his trowser's back  pocket…"

Court Record 2.  These three titles are hereafter included in the court record as exhibits, E/A, E/B, E/C:

E/A: "How to do Anything, Anywhere, Anytime and Under Any Condition, So Help Me Goebbels"  --authors, various; edited and with commentary by H. C. Ranton

E/B:  "My Camp"  --original author's inscription defaced throughout and signed instead by Captain Ranton as the inditer

E/C:  "Mixology Made Easy" --Swill Press, 2002

Court Record 3.  Banal Crew Testimonies, abstracts.

1st Mate Noermynd:  "It all seemed so strange, you know?  We were well read and all, the Captain saw to that with his books. He'd rail on us to learn his ways; he was relentless in teaching us about every contingency, how to expect any course change in anything.  I  just don't understand how this happened; I really don't…"

Of special note are those testimonies of new recruits, known as Newbies by the Banal's crew:

Seaman Uppend:  "Well, with all due respect for the Captain and the officers, I was rightly confused.  He and they kept at us newcomers, saying that we had to read what they were reading to really know anything, and not to think, just do, you know?  One time I gave a suggestion and one of the officers, well, he looked in this book and said, "'Nope, it's not in here, doesn't apply, get back to duty.'"

Seaman Zerozum:  "There was so much pressure on the ship and every one talked the same, I mean, you know, THE SAME, repeating things over and over which I'd never heard at the Academy, but who was I, just a Newbie and scoffed at.  "They'd teach me," so many said, and I tried to believe, I did…"

Court Record 4.  Captain Ranton's testimony, abstracts.

"I followed protocol. I do it by the book and only the book, so help me…. ah… I do it by the book."

"I taught them by the book, even when we'd foundered I read passages in the water to inspire "My Camp," eh, erh, my crew, that is.  Yes.  My crew.  I followed protocol, I did it by the book.  How else is one to be inspired?  That is how I was taught, that is how I command, how I teach.  By the book and only by the book, so help me… ah, yes…"

When court appointed Navy psychologists were allowed to cross examine Captain Ranton they asked if the first book (E/A) was the book used in heightening crew response.  He refused to answer the question, but it is noted that he continued to look at exhibit E/A from then on out while requesting various mixed drinks.

Conclusion:  It is the Court's conclusion that Captain Ranton be penalized in full for violations of military code as set forth in the attached rider, Duty Codes Violated.  Captain Ranton is hereby discharged without ceremony and remanded to the Naval Care Facility at Long Beach for detoxification to last no more than 3 months. At his request the Long Beach Naval Hospital will provide a detention cell of bamboo for his comfort and ease.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Favorite Steve Jobs Quotes X2

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson: On Creativity

"I think it would be misleading, because the reason is people have to take a personal journey. This is your life, it’s not my life and you have to figure out what you want from it. What we can do, I think, is give people some navigational tools for that trip and some clear principles and examples and some techniques that they can use.
"It’s a two-way journey. The first is, in terms of being in your element and finding your greatest strength, is you have to go inward. You’re a unique person. Everybody is unique, a unique moment in history, and you have to be prepared to be honest with yourself and to spend time with yourself evaluating either the interest you know you’ve got or the ones you thought you would like to explore but never did. The things that you were drawn to, the things that you haven’t yet tried, the things that you would liked to have explored but you never did, the things that maybe you did but you were stopped from taking any further. But you have to do your own map of yourself. The book will have some help for that."  Sir Ken Robinson, from an interview here.

Two Books He has Written:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Save Me From Tomorrow: In Pictures

“The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed”—Hitler's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels

Monday, August 22, 2011

Emile and Event Streams: A Moral Viewpoint on DMs and Players as People

This is my final online post regarding the GM Challenge now raging towards its ultimate conclusion at various blogs.  This was noted in a recent topic in which I made my points. However, they were probably not as clear as I had hoped.  Such is this medium's lack and much can be lost in translation; but in retrospect I will say that I have read the vast majority of these posts by each contributing author.  Whereas Grendlewulf and the fine chap at Gothridge Manor come close to the idea it is my opinion that these still do not go back far enough in the event stream to pin down what I consider to be the most important point.

I will further explain by posing among the commentary some fictitious (though not tongue-in-cheek) examples; for this "Build a Better GM"challenge is certainly beginning to look like a group of older artists, say from the late 1800's to early 1900's, who upon gathering at Paris or Brussels find themselves sipping tea or coffee whilst discussing among themselves their various techniques.

Event Stream

Back drop:  A notable art gallery.  Seated in one of the viewing rooms are several artists who have a number of their pieces on display and within view.  They openly discuss the merits of these and the techniques used in crafting them...

Seurat (to Gaugin):  Your paintings jump before the eyes, Guagin!  They illuminate even this dull parlor.
(looking sidelong at Van Gogh): Unlike poor Vincent's, which are too dark, I fear.

Gaugin (absently):  Ah, but the hand minds the eye's choice in such matters, does it not?  True, the shades are darker, and in Paris his works do not sell as well, mostly for lack of appreciation of them I'd say, but they do voice his intent.

Van Gogh (to both):  I paint what I feel.  I express.  And I do not want for others; it is not that I detest light so much as I can appreciate the darker shades, as well.  Life is my palette and no other.

Seurat:  Yes, indeed, but you miss the greater import of which Gaugin has exposed in part.  Impressionism, Vincent, is now upon us.  The galleries, the institutes which you despise, they are alive with it!  The students, the public and the art sellers, they all clamor for more.  You are not adapting to the times; even your brother thinks so.

Van Gogh:  Times change as do moods.  There have been masters before us and there will be many that follow.  I am not concerned with the past or the future, but only with that moment when I apply my brush.

Gaugin:  Well said, Vincent; and in that you remain you, Seurat remains himself and I remain Gaugin.  Time for some more refreshments.  Absinthe anyone?

Note:  The 3rd highest priced painting to sell in the world was VVG's last self-portrait:  72+ million dollars.  He is notable for being one of the few to resist institutional learning (i.e., conformist views of the time), though he had some institutional training in anatomy/human proportion. Though having great respect for the artists of his time and their methods he stayed to his own course.  He did not start painting until he was 20 years of age.

Moral Questions1 (grouped):  How best will we as neophyte instructors of RPG teach newcomers who seek learning, and in the broadest possible sense of that term, when we just could be, just may be, be teaching another M. A. R. Barker to be without even knowing it?  And who is to say that all players or DMs could not be up and coming geniuses?  For as Picasso said:

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

My commentary from the second response in that thread:

Let's extend the process a little further. What if the creative force of an individual gravitates towards more story-telling as they find in that process certain ways to improve latent talents and interests, whether theirs and/or in concert with a group who might share that interest?  It is possible by design to create such matter as hereby concluded, say in creating a city and having as the adventuring focus the intrigues of a greater political backdrop therein. This is only one example of the range that is possible within expression; and that cannot be treated as a lump sum technique, but will instead be fashioned according to taste and need as their story unfolds.

..."There are no tricks, no short-cuts." And I mean this generally, as an aggregate that cannot be passed along to a group.  If they exist at all it is within the specific confines of an individual who has implemented these according to their creative thrust; and that creative thrust depends on a personalized and very singular story*.

*Note:  Easily restated as--"...creative thrust depends on a personalized and very singular approach."

Let me conclude this part by saying that the bolded sentence--If they exist at all it is within the specific confines of an individual who has implemented these according to their creative thrust;--refers in fact to what all of those responding to the challenge have indeed emulated! Each and every one of you has discovered over time, by learning, by challenge, by reading, by thinking, and by many other methods distinct to each and every one of you, you have discovered and brought into being from your experiences 3 creative particles. There was value in that learning, that discovery for you, wasn't there?  That is why you can feel assured now in presenting these points.  And now you want to pass yours along to "Build" (I suppose that means create) those in an image of it as you faintly understand it.  In so doing you hope to help those who supposedly can not help themselves (even though each of you have done so in each and every case, that is, over time you have learned and progressed).

Moral Questions2 (grouped):  Doesn't this very combined process expose all too clearly a dichotomy?  In implementing this to "indoctrinate" newcomers and thus steer them among the choices presented, is this not channeling them along different paths that each of you took for arriving at your own individual viewpoints?  How does this fit within the description and exercise of individuality for newcomers as each and every one of you have experienced for yourselves?  If your past experiences and processes have produced for yourselves a heightened degree of knowledge, what are the consequences of not allowing (or foreshortening) that same learning and growth path to occur in others?  Do you agree or disagree that only value-added experiences spur growth (if you believe that these two mix, then please refer to the preceding question which I reiterate as my last)? 

Continuing Upon the Event Stream...

A short conversation between Socrates and a student, Ancient Greece

Student:  Socrates.  As you have instructed me, I have a question.
Socrates (nods):  Continue.
Student (smiling):  Who taught the first teacher?
Socrates (unshaken):  Life.
Student (puzzled):  If that is true then I need only to learn life; and if that is true, then why am I here and why do you teach?
Socrates:  In answer to the first:  You have not acquired that path due to indolence, a common human failing.  In that lies the answer to the second.

Moral Questions3 (grouped):  Are we to assume that every newcomer who is drawn to our creative hobby is doing so only for base reasons, such as:  Boredom?  Companionship? Lack of anything else better to do? Game-play fun? Or might they have been attracted for some of the same reasons that many of us were?  Such as artistic inclination? Creative freedom?  Related intellectual pursuits? Broadening of knowledge?  The list is endless, of course, in both extremes, so how do we best serve the whole without limiting its parts?

Conclusion:  We are dealing with unique individuals; they are not plug-and-play objects easily fitted one after the other into categories no matter what we think is true, or is the "norm," amongst ourselves.  We owe it to newcomers and ourselves to be cautious and concerned in the matter of teaching and its methods.

These are the "3" I feel most strongly promote that balanced goal:

1.  Each person is different, thus you have an obligation to identify that difference and nurture it in the best way that you can for their benefit.  This specific tact will benefit the whole group.

2.  That this course is best served by specific approaches rather than inundating each individual with a shot-gun blast of information and choices.  This will allow each person the time to grow, understand and communicate their needs and interests, which thereafter can be honed by your participation in a mentoring situation.

3. Through this course you as the DM and your players will grow and excel, not just in the game, but in life as well.  It will prepare your players for DMing with a courage they have won, a knowledge they have gained, and all through your patience, perseverance and subtle guidance.

Ending event stream, Master Owl and the Grasshopper

Master Owl:  What is best?  To serve or to be served?
Grasshopper:  They are one in the same, Master Owl.
Master Owl (pausing):  How so?
Grasshopper:  In either I do my best and appreciate the contentment displayed in the acts
Master Owl:  You are wise, grasshopper...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another Look at Garden of the Plantmaster (1987 version)

At Fire in the Jungle.

And for those who never got the colorized map and key released in the online version, circa 1996:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Interesting Discussion Starting at HC

here: http://hillcantons.blogspot.com/

in the topic entitled: Building a Better GM: A Challenge

I interject my thoughts about the base assumption by pointing to a separation of technique and creative force, which seemingly has been lumped into one facet of a "How To?" process.  My response is posted there and is quoted below.

You are confusing technique with creative force. There is no "How to" to CF, that is bred at birth, greatly expanded (or not) during childhood,  intuitively practiced in later years (or not) and thereafter grown and sustained (or not) by each and every individual.

It is like asking, "How best is it to write?" as I have knowledge of the techniques of writing. The best answer to mastering any such hands-on subject is to do it and therein find your own creative form.  This addresses "form" vs "formula" the latter which seems so prevalent in this medium.

Each DM's form will also differ according to the range of material being presented  "in each moment,"  just as different types of stories have varying  weights applied to  them at different times by the author creating these.Also note the last question of my [recent] interview as this is a better starting point, mastering story, for any GM as far as techniques go, and this too cannot be tricked into being.

Also, this question is being asked in a vacuum.  It addresses current DMs (i.e. largely considered as a whole, "veteran DMs") and their thoughts on this as culled from experience but does not, as far as I can see within it, address fledgling DMs, that is, newcomers to the art.  While exclusionary, it paints a definite process which was not true for those veterans when newcomers themselves.

The process of learning to DM/story-telling is best discovered in the trenches by  creating our own dungeons/locales.  This personalizes the experience 100% and builds in layers of confidence, objectivity and other enhancements of a greater type not found in running  pre-made adventures. The difference between creating your own story and reading it aloud rather than reading aloud another's. 

For the most part many of us were weaned  in "Fun House" climes; but whatever the "adventure"  environment, one learns rudiments and essentials and these thereafter take root and grow according to the prevailing creative force in every individual as expressed through personal understanding and application, and in differing degrees.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


   "Vain are the thousand creeds
 That move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
    Worthless as withered weeds,
 Or idlest froth amid the boundless main..."  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just Dropping In

It's always good to say hello now and then.

I have been occupied with rest ever since my return from NTRPGCON 3.  I have managed to finish an interview started months ago and that should be published on another blog very soon.

Fight On! magazine will  be dedicating an issue to me, I believe it's #14, and Allan Grohe is sending them an article I originally published in Wargames Magazine, IIRC, back in 1977 or thereabouts.

My immediate projects proceed slowly while matching the re-energizing I'm getting from a very demanding personal and health challenging 2010. 

North Texas wore me out, however, fun though it always is.  The Workshop was a great success and I will run it again next year.  The adventure we designed in the six hours participants colluded to do so was DMed by me the very next day , though the players in that might as well have been zombies, instead, as they were frightfully slow, disorganized and made me, tired as I was throughout the entire convention, seem spry by comparison.  Hate to say it, but that's the truth.

It has been tentatively named, "The Mad House"; and it will eventually find print through NTRPGCON as an added way of generating income for the convention.

One participant in the workshop said during it, "Wow!  I cannot believe what we've accomplished in an hour's time!" They were a good crew; and my hat goes off to them and to David Rhea, Doug's son, who participated at an ever increasing and creative pace as we continued.  He wishes to design solid adventures and called the whole ordeal, "Just Crazy!" 

That's about it.  I will not be posting too much on a regular basis, sorry.  The pace I kept up before, coupled with the demands of writing and research, means that I have to cut somewhere.  I just don't have the energy for blogs and forums and even my Q&A on DF has suffered due to this.  However, that means that I can concentrate on the creative for print, and that has been my only concern for years, so it is not alien to me.

Pied Piper Publishing is no more due to my health.  I cannot manage it on all levels.  It was a nice run under the imprint; but imprints are just that.  I will continue to write when time, health and inspiration combine and allow me to do so.

Find out more when my interview is published; should be very soon.

Good Gaming to all!


PS--I wish to thank all of you, especially Scottz, for the wonderful articles that you posted here and wish you all continued good luck with your creative endeavors!